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Addiction treatment options

There are several treatment approaches that can be used for those who are suffering from addiction

There are many different treatment options for those who fall into the trap of addiction. From counseling to drug assisted medication, no single treatment option is right for everyone. Created by: Emily Rowan and Jill Nawoyski

Treatment Options

Each and every day, thousands of Americans are struggling with substance abuse disorder, and some are not fortunate enough to get the help and treatment that they deserve.

According to a report by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, over 40 million individuals in the United States suffer from drug, alcohol or nicotine related addiction and only about 10 percent of those affected receive treatment.

“Not everyone has access to treatment, so we have a lot of constraints with insurance and there is only so much we can do,” Brandt Norton, Lead Outreach Coordinator at Behavioral Wellness and Recovery, said.

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) is an addiction treatment method that combines counseling, social support and medication. Methadone and Buprenorphine are two types of addiction-treatment drugs and can help reduce or stop the use of heroin and other opioids. While they are both opioids themselves, they work to bring the brain back to normal. They block the euphoric effects of alcohol and opioids, reduce cravings and bring the body back to a healthy state.

“The overdose rates are far drastically lower with this medication assisted treatment and people go back to work and they go back to their families and they function,” Dr. Peter Grinspoon, primary care physician and professor of medicine at Harvard University, said.

Treatment for addiction comes in a variety of forms and is broken down into behavioral and pharmacological approaches. Unfortunately, seeing results with treatment may take time, due to the fact that substance abuse is a chronic disorder and relapses may occur. It may take months of time to conquer and just one treatment option might not be enough.

“In my opinion, is it is better to have someone who is on a drug like Suboxone which is a combination of Buprenorphine and Naloxone than to be on heroin,” Dr. Scott Rawls, associate professor of pharmacology & Center for Substance Abuse Research at Temple University, said. “It’s a proven fact that Suboxone will reduce relapse rates to heroin which is a good thing but it’s also a proven fact that once those patients are on Suboxone they have a hard time stopping and taking the actual Suboxone itself. So I think the goal is to find non-opioid medications that are useful in reducing relapse.”

Behavioral therapies are seen as the motivational way for those suffering from substance abuse disorder to get the encouragement to stay clean. They can range from counseling to therapy, from individual to group settings. Cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT, can help individuals shed light on what is triggering their addiction and find ways to avoid thoughts and behaviors that can put their recovery in jeopardy.

“There are a lot of relapses associated with people that try to get clean or want to get clean,” Tom Connell, recovering alcoholic and licensed counselor, said. “But the key is just kind of keep building up their resiliency helping them to say, ‘if you stumble or if you fall, get right you back up again keep plugging away at it and eventually you will get sober.’”

Although these treatment options have been successful, we as Americans are left with one overall question. What is the first step to getting those the help that they deserve?

“If we’re talking about it, we can find solutions,” interventionist Patrick Brown said. “But if we’re afraid to talk about it, we’ve got no hope.”

Written by: Jill Nawoyski and Jessica Ferrarelli

Methadone and buprenorphine are both treatment drugs for heroin and narcotics. Created by: Jessica Ferarrelli

Recovery is Possible

Recovery is possible and provides hope to those who have been impacted by drugs and alcohol. Created by: Jill Nawoyski

AA and NA

Alcoholics Anonymous

The Alcoholics Anonymous 12-step recovery program also known as A.A., is a free anonymous program for people suffering from alcohol abuse. The twelve steps are a group of spiritual principles and if practiced as a way of life, can put the obsession to drink to rest.

Many individuals who are a part of AA choose to have a sponsor to help them through their journey. Photo by: Emily Rowan

AA is a nonprofit fellowship or society consisting of men and women whose lives have become disrupted by the use of alcohol. The people in the program follow a set of recovery steps (12 steps) to achieve and maintain abstinence from alcohol. The only requirement to this program is the desire to stop drinking

“I went to rehab and I’ve been sober for almost ten years and it has been a beautiful life,” recovering addict Lona Spalard said. “I mean certainly life in recovery is not perfect, we have life shit just like everybody else has life stuff. But we were promised that if we came into AA we would never have to hurt from drinking again. That was one thing that was for sure and that is one promise I was given, I have not hurt from alcohol in almost ten years.”

Many people in the program use a sponsor to help them through the steps. A sponsor is an individual who is also a member of AA. When in early recovery, it is essential to have someone you can lean on for support, a sponsor helps guide an individual through the steps. Someone who is considered a sponsor has made great progress in the program and can share his or her experience on an individual level with someone who is new to the program trying to achieve sobriety. Sponsorship can help both people with remaining sober.

“In AA we have a saying ‘keep coming back,’” recovering alcoholic Bryan Crnkovic said. “There’s tons of sayings but that’s the best one and one of my favorites. You know there’s people that go to 18 different rehabs and they’re getting scared to come back because they’re afraid or embarrassed or feel like they let people down. In our home group and most places that I’ve been to, it’s not thought of as a bad thing. You went back out, let’s start from step 1 again, let’s go back to it again. Just keep coming back, whatever it’s gonna take to get you sober, just keep coming back. Even if you’re out there drinking, come back for one day or two days. Eventually you’re gonna figure out what’s going on.”

Narcotics Anonymous

The Narcotics Anonymous 12-step program also known as N.A., is a free anonymous program for people suffering from drug addiction. It is a society of men and women whom have become powerless over their addiction to drugs.

Federal parole and probation officer Vanessa Starr said, “What society fails to see is that it’s not that the addict wants to keep on using, it’s that they can’t stop.  It’s not that easy.  I know there are some that don’t want to stop, but the great majority want to and it’s just not that easy…It takes a lot of strength, a lot of resources, willpower and commitment to maintain a program like NA (Narcotics Anonymous) or AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) and to work whatever program works for that individual.  It’s almost like they are fighting a demon all the time.”

NA is a judgement free zone where addicts can go for support. Photo by: Emily Rowan

The purpose of a 12-step fellowship is to teach and support skills related to recovery. Meetings can also help an addict learn and manage the triggers to their addictive behavior. Meetings vary from day to day, but they consist of speaker meetings, step meeting and book readings. Meetings are where the addict can go and express feelings free of judgement and create a network of sober individuals.

“The other thing about meetings is it lifts some of the shame,” recovering addict and now licensed counselor Tom Connell said. “It can be embarrassing when you get sober and you feel a lot of shame so but when you’re in the rooms talking about your problems with the people who’ve been there it’s like that shame of evaporates over time.”

There are many different 12-step programs. According to recovering addicts with a great amount of clean time, as a newly recovering addict, going to meetings are crucial.

“I’m 35 years sober, which is a great probably my greatest accomplishment in life and I really owe it to 12 step programs,” Connell said. “I tell a lot of people that I work with or that I’m trying to help in 12 step fellowship, that even if people have external motivation and they don’t know if they want to stay sober or not I just tell them how I did it, where I was at emotionally when I kind of came into recovery, but if you stay away from alcohol drugs long enough, like you to start to appreciate and realize… when I removed drugs and alcohol from the picture, like about two years later after I stop using I mean like all these good things started to happen. My family started trust me again, I was able to enroll back in school because addiction took that from me i wound up dropping out that semester. I was able to hold my first full-time job, buy my first car, had a whole new set of friends who were trying to do the same things I was doing.”

Written by: Moira Prior